Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Water power

On the south rim of the Grand Canyon, there is a paved walkway.  Part of it is the Trail of Time.  Along this section are spaced slabs of stone that have been dated.  The age of the stone is recorded on a plaque.  At the beginning of this section, a sign says,"Each step = a million years".

I got a kick from the idea.  As a human being, I am hard put to live 100 years.  The actual length of my life is not all that important but when some things are a million years old, or 100 million or a billion (1000 million), I have tough time experiencing much of the world when I am conscious in it for such a short time.  So, consciously thinking of a vision of a million years lapsing with each step, gives me a little tool for being aware of the longlastingness of things.  Rocks, light, forces can go on in a steady existence and do, without my oversight or participation.

The view is quite captivating.  The colors, the clear complexity of the peaks and valleys, the canyons and shapes, the depth - all get your attention.  For me, however, after 15 minutes of looking and looking, thinking about the birds that glide up and down on thermal air currents, about the time that has passed for a river to accomplish this sculpting, the view has said what it can.
The book "Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon" describes over 500 cases of misadventures in the Canyon.  We saw posters stating that many people have to be rescued in the Grand Canyon.  One shows a healthy young man in his mid-twenties and says that most of those in peril look like this: young, male, healthy.  One of the most common ways to get into danger is to decide to walk to the bottom of the canyon and back in one day, without adequate water, shelter, provisions.  In about 1994, a young woman marathoner in her early 20's and in excellent physical condition, died on just such a venture.  She had underestimated her water needs and had 1.5 liters.  Some suicides are committed each year.

My wife likes to take much longer than I do to look at things.  In 1976, when I was ready to do something else after about 15 minutes of viewing, she was flummoxed.  Similarly, on this trip, it took only a short while for me to feel that I had seen was there was to see.  Before getting to the national park, we stopped at a point on tribal land.  There, we could stand in a single-person sized, guardrail-enclosed area that was directly on the rim.  The drop right at my feet certainly gets my attention.  Once we had a helicopter ride from the Hualapai tribal airport, high above the Colorado river, down to the water level for a raft ride to Lake Mead.  The helicopter had a glass bottom.  We flew for a short distance over land but when we passed across the rim and the view dropped to the bottom of the canyon, I was certainly aware of the distance down.

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